Crime and mental health

Whether it’s due to the influence of the media, or the stigma surrounding mental health, there is an unfounded belief that people who suffer from mental health problems are inherently dangerous; that they are monsters who need to be locked up for everyone’s safety. But as you may have guessed from this introduction, that belief is nonsense. The majority of people who suffer from mental illness are in no way violent. In fact, many people suffering from severe mental health problems are actually more susceptible to becoming victims of violent crime themselves.

In many cases, a person who suffers with a mental health condition is also more of a danger to themselves than they ever would be to the general public. Whilst we acknowledge that some people can commit crime and be violent when they are unwell, we want to stress that this is not the case for the majority of sufferers.

In this brochure, we’ll highlight some statistics relating to crime committed by those who are unwell, and we’ll look at the statistics relating to the way they are victimised. We will also briefly touch on the prison system and its relationship to mental health problems.

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Holidays and mental health

The holiday period is a time for relaxation and happiness, where people catch up with family and friends and take a rest from work.

Unfortunately, for many people the holiday period is not all about positivity and can instead have a negative impact on their mental health. This can be for a number of reasons, with different people reacting differently to the same events. Here we will outline some of the reasons why people may find the holiday period tough and what problems may arise. We will also suggest some tips that may help to reduce the impact the holidays have on your mental health.

The term holiday period can be subjective. In the UK you may see this term as referring to the days prior to Christmas until New Year’s Day, whereas in the USA you may see this period as starting as early as Thanksgiving week. It also varies based on cultural and religious beliefs. Whilst for the most part we are referring to the first definition, the contents of this brochure are likely to apply to most holiday and religious celebrations throughout the year.

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Childhood trauma and PTSD

Unfortunately many people worldwide are subjected to childhood trauma, both intentionally and unintentionally, each year. Whilst for some people this trauma is a bad memory that they have moved past, for others the effects of this trauma can stay with them for an extended period of time, often into adulthood. This can lead to conditions such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that can greatly limit a person’s life.

This brochure will briefly look at childhood trauma and PTSD, discussing the symptoms that may be seen in children and adults, as well as discussing some treatment options. If you do read this brochure and feel that your experiences and current symptoms match those of PTSD then we encourage you to seek help from a medical professional as soon as possible. Please also consider that certain aspects discussed in this brochure may act as a trigger for those already experiencing PTSD or PTSD like symptoms. Please be aware of this and stop reading if you feel the brochure is upsetting you.

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Bullying

Bullying can be described as the intentional hurting of a person or people by another person or group on a regular basis, resulting in the creation of a one-sided power relationship. Bullying can take many forms, including physical violence, verbal abuse and psychological abuse. Bullying can be done in-person, or via other means, e.g. on social media or the internet (known as cyberbullying). Cyberbullying takes bullying out of the classroom or the school playground and follows the victim home, resulting in 24-hour-a-day abuse.

Although a lot of research focuses on school children, it is important to remember that bullying is not unique to children. Adults can be bullied and bullies to adults or children. In some cases, a person may not realise they are being a bully, e.g. a teacher singling out a student in class may be considered a bully, and may inspire further bullying from others. Whilst we will tend to focus on research into younger adults and children in this brochure, we have also included a section showing statistics on adult bullying in the workplace.

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Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that can cause a sufferer to experience bouts of deep depression interspersed with periods of mania or hypomania. Changes between the two extreme moods can be greatly distressing to the sufferer and can interfere with daily life.

There is a misconception that every person with bipolar disorder experiences rapidly changing moods each day, but this is not always the case. In fact, only certain kinds of the illness (such as rapid cycling bipolar), involve quick and regular mood changes. Instead, most people with bipolar disorder are likely to suffer an elevated or depressed mood for weeks to months at a time. In some cases, a sufferer may go from one extreme mood state to the other, without experiencing any relative normalcy in between. In other cases people may maintain a ‘normal’ mood for a good while before swinging over to depression or mania. Mood patterns vary greatly from sufferer to sufferer.

Bipolar disorder is a serious and often dangerous condition that should be treated professionally and medically. Unfortunately, when a person is in a stage of mania they may not believe they are unwell. It is therefore important for both the sufferer and those around them to be aware of some of the basic aspects of bipolar disorder. This brochure will provide information for those wishing to learn more about it and will outline some of the symptoms. It will also highlight potential causes, current statistics and available treatments. If you do suspect that you have bipolar disorder then we would encourage you to speak to your GP or other medical professional as soon as possible.

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Autism and ADHD

Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are both conditions that affect a person from an early age and can greatly impact their development and social functioning. Whilst these disorders are often found independently of one another you will notice when reading this brochure that they do share some similarities and in some cases these conditions will both affect a single individual at the same time. They both unfortunately do not have a cure, but instead treatments exist to manage the symptoms and to improve the quality of life of the sufferer. This brochure will outline the basics of each of these disorders, as well as showing how often they occur and what treatments are available to improve the symptoms. We will look at these disorders individually and will then briefly touch on the instances where they both affect the same individual.

It is important to note that in this brochure we will be using the terms Autism and ADHD. Whilst we do appreciate that both of these conditions can be broken down into other disorders or sub-groups and sub-classifications, such as a selection of Autism Spectrum Disorders and Attention Deficit Disorder, these are beyond the scope of this brochure. We need to also highlight that in
many instances the research and general information in the area looks at the disorders when they appear in children. This is because these are developmental disorders that need to be present since early childhood. This does not mean that adults are not suffering, in many instances without a diagnosis or the help that they deserve. Where we can we shall endeavour to include information that also pertains to adults.

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Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is an anxiety related disorder that revolves around a disproportionate fear of situations in which a person may struggle to escape. Whilst it is often referred to as simply a fear of open spaces, it is in fact much more complex than this and can apply to situations such as leaving the house, standing in line or using public transport. Individuals with agoraphobia tend to associate fear with certain places, often evaluating them to be much more dangerous than they are. Entering these places, or even the anticipation of entering them, can cause a great deal of fear or anxiety to the sufferer. This then results in some of the symptoms we will discuss below.

Interestingly, the thoughts and fears that an agoraphobic person experiences are likely to adapt with age. For example, a child with the disorder may fear being lost in a certain place, whilst an adult may fear falling over in the same situation. Most sufferers will be able to realise that their fear is irrational, but they are unable to change their behaviours. As with many disorders, agoraphobia can become very debilitating, with severe cases often leaving people housebound and unable to work. In other cases, people may be able to function and conceal the fact they are suffering.

It is important to note that, until very recently, the manuals that psychologists used to diagnose a patient did not treat agoraphobia as an individual illness, and instead it was classified as a type of panic disorder. Whilst there are still a great number of links between these disorders, the new Diagnostic Manual, the DSM-V, has classified agoraphobia as its own condition. While this is good news as it means agoraphobia will receive more funding and research, it also does limit the current information available that looks at agoraphobia as its own condition. This brief information sheet may therefore also include information drawn from the previous diagnosis where relevant.

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Homelessness

When people think of homelessness they tend to think of people living on the streets. But there are much broader definitions of homelessness for people who only have temporary housing, or live in sheltered housing, and for people who couch surf or stay in hotels and motels, to list just a few. With all these definitions it can sometimes be difficult to gather accurate information on the full scale of the problem. While this brochure will focus solely on statistics relating solely to street sleeping, we acknowledge that homelessness is a much bigger issue. It is also important to acknowledge that due to the transient nature of homelessness it can often be difficult to ascertain accurate or long term statistics, which limits the production of accurate information. We also acknowledge that mental illness can render a person unable to give consent to take part in studies. So when reading this brochure, it’s important to keep all these points in mind.

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Mental health in minority populations

For some time, minority populations have been more susceptible to mental health problems, and have received insufficient treatment from their health care networks. This brochure will outline some of the potential problems, and consider some of the reasons why people of a minority background may be averse to seeking treatment. We will also look at some potential improvements that have been suggested, or are now being implemented.

Throughout this brochure, we’ll use the term ‘minority population’ to refer to any population that is not the predominant population of that region or country. In most cases, this is based on ethnicity. In the case of the USA, we will also refer to the Native American population. Whilst we do acknowledge there are a number of flaws in grouping all minority populations into one all encompassing group, we are following the pattern laid out in the research literature. It has also been found that many minority groups will have similar living and health seeking experiences, which justifies this grouping.

There are also problems with incorrect categorisation when it comes to racial minority classifications, with one study finding up to half of classifications to be incorrect. So we’ll overcome some of these problems by using the larger grouping in this brochure.

Globally, it has been known for some time that those who are in minority populations have received sub-par mental health care, compared with the majority population. With less than optimal treatment, people in these populations are less likely to achieve a full recovery, meaning an ongoing negative impact on their life. This is a circular issue as it means they’ll continue to suffer and struggle, which increases the risk of further mental health problems. And this may be compounded by the risk of double discrimination: an ethnic minority who is suffering from mental illness. In other words, somebody who is a member of both categories is potentially at risk twice. This further highlights the need for mental health services globally to adapt to the changing needs of their citizens; particularly now that globalisation is leading to more ethnically diverse nations. Studies have found that those who immigrate are often mentally healthier than those in the destination country, but this wears off after several years, implying that the services available are just not suitable for these minority populations.

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Please note, this guide is currently being updated.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) are both anxiety related disorders that revolve around intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. Due to their similarities we will discuss these two disorders together. Unfortunately, media representation has often led to a distortion in what people believe these disorders to be and as such we will attempt to correct these mistaken views.

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